Integrating COVID-19 testing into an existing malaria programme in a remote Suriname gold mining village
Amid declining COVID-19 testing rates, the issue of how to ensure people have access to testing remains a pressing challenge. Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is a key part of the global response to the pandemic. It allows countries to identify infections and put measures in place to limit transmission. Developments in diagnostic testing capacity are crucial to monitor how the virus is mutating and ensure emerging variants are detected. However, testing remains inadequate in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which hampers their ability to contain outbreaks. The impact of limited testing extends well beyond the effects it has on the public health response. Without it, there is no way of knowing who has contracted COVID-19 and where it is spreading, which may increase the severity and length of lockdowns, leading to potentially devastating social and economic effects.
As the pandemic continues into the fourth year and testing rates continue to decline, UNICEF with ACT-A partners is exploring how to integrate COVID-19 testing into existing health systems. In partnership with FIND and under the ACT-A Country Support Working Group, which UNICEF leads, studies are underway in several countries to improve access to rapid diagnostic tests in healthcare settings and communities, especially outside of cities where well-resourced hospitals and clinics are often located. This example from Suriname presents an interesting example of integrating COVID-19 testing into an existing malaria testing programme targeted to gold miners in a remote area of Suriname.